PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Film

Gdynia Film Festival Day 4: Waterline / Gods / Close Ups / Goto, Island of Love

A mystery thriller, a biographical portrait, a mother/daughter melodrama and a visit to the "Island of Love" make up our fourth day at Gdynia Film Festival.

In Michał Otłowski's Waterline (Jeziorak), Jowita Budnik plays Iza Deren, a no-nonsense policewoman who's investigating a girl's death. The decidedly put-upon Iza has more than this case on her plate, unfortunately.

She's pregnant, for one, and the father of the twins she's expecting has disappeared under mysterious circumstances with another police colleague. Meanwhile, the investigation turns up some long-buried secrets from Iza's own past.

Otłowski's film, his feature debut, is a crisp, enjoyable thriller with a well-sustained brooding atmosphere. In tone and tempo, the movie is rather reminiscent of the Scandi thrillers that have found favour on TV in recent years, a comparison that, in a sense, highlights one of the film's problems.

There's so much in the way of plot here, and so much in the way of interesting back-story for Iza, that the material ends up feeling somewhat compressed at just 90 minutes. A mini-series format may have been better suited to the web of narrative strands that Otłowski is weaving here.

Still, the movie benefits greatly from a subtle and carefully modulated performance by Budnik, and its stylistic confidence marks Otłowski out as a filmmaker to watch.

Gods (2014)

A fine central performance is also one of the saving graces of Lukasz Palkowski's Gods (Bogowie), an audience favourite, which won several prizes at last night's "non-statutory" ceremony that precedes the main awards tonight. Gods stars the popular Tomasz Kot as Zbigniew Religa, the surgeon who performed the first successful heart transplant in Poland.

Following Religa's establishment of a Zabrze clinic dedicated to cardiac procedures, the film is interesting in its exploration of the kinds of opposition that the surgeon meets, opposition that's deeply related to Poland's religious and cultural landscape.

The film boasts some strong moments, such as a well-observed scene in which Religa tries to persuade the grieving parents of a young man killed in a motorcycle accident to allow their son's heart to be donated. However, for me, the picture falters in its recourse to montage sequences (quite what James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" is scoring one of them for is anybody's guess), some over-pitched moments, and uncertainties of tone.

The latter are nowhere more apparent than in a misguided scene (it has no follow-through) in which a male patient objects to the prospect of receiving the heart of "a faggot, a Jew, or, worse, a woman", a comment that drew some giggles at the screening I attended.

Kot's rumpled charisma does a lot to hold the movie together. However, the film is rather careless in its handling of other characters: as Religa's wife, for example, Magdalena Czerwińska gets the very definition of a thankless role, while the brilliant Kinga Preiss (memorable in Smarzowski's The Mighty Angel) is reduced to little more than a cameo. It's a man's world, indeed.

Close Ups (2014)

Despite some shortcomings, Waterline and Gods are pretty much masterpieces compared to Close Ups (Zbliżenia), a feeble maternal melodrama written and directed by Magdalena Piekorz. The film is not worth lingering over, except to note that it contains some of the most heavy-handed symbolism seen in many a year and never digs deeply enough into the claustrophobic mother/daughter relationship that it purports to explore.

Goto, Island of Love (1968)

It was a definite relief to head straight from Close Ups into Goto, Island of Love, Walerian Borowcyk's superb 1968 fantasia which unfolds on an archipelago cut off from the rest of civilisation following an earthquake. Newly restored by Arrow Films (the restoration produced by Daniel Bird) the film looked a dream (appropriately enough), and mesmerised with its sheer bonkers beauty.

Following the spelling-it-out obviousness of Close Ups, Borowcyk's enigmas were especially appreciated, and it's fair to say that the screening resulted in another restoration: that of film faith itself.

* * *

Above: Waterline (2014)

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.